Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thabo slams the UN
I watched Mbeki's speech to the UN assembly live last night, and one could not help being impressed by his impassioned speech deriding the UN's focus on the war on terror against a backdrop of international poverty crises.

"The wealthy and powerful feel mortally threatened by the fanatical rage of terrorists, correctly," said Mbeki.

"What they will decide will translate into a set of obligatory injunctions, issued by this organisation, which all member states will have to accept and implement."

Impoverished countries, however, do not have the means to respond to the "present and immediate dangers" of famine and disaster, and lack the power to have their concerns translated into similarly binding UN resolutions, he said.

"We comforted or perhaps deluded ourselves with the thought that this organisation is 'the most universal and most representative in the world', afraid to ask the question - is it?" he said

Mbeki's speech was notable against a series of speeches by African and developing nation leaders (the worst surely being Namibian President Sam Nujoma) who laboured on with platitudes to the UN and the first world countries.

It's interesting that whilst the US/UK power block has largely written off the UN as a toothless assembly within the war on terror, Mbeki may actually be bringing the focus back to what the UN is traditionally a key player in - bringing international aid to impoverished areas. Perhaps this opens an opportunity for the UN to rebuild its credibility by throwing itself into a humanitarian focus, whilst it rebuilds its sorely needed stature in conflict resolution.

Either way, I applaud Mbeki for a great speech. Whether the rest of the UN - and the world - will do so too, is debatable.